Ministry can be messy

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)—Ministry can be messy. To reach alcoholics you have to be willing to smell some alcohol. When you deal with families in crisis, you are required to listen to stories of heartbreak. If you go into a prison, you open yourself to a person who is hurting and families who are broken.

Some situations will make you mad; other situations will break your heart. You will be vulnerable to your emotions. You may have to give up some personal time. You likely will need to pray more.

I discovered one of those situations with "Joe." Because of drugs and alcohol, Joe was in prison. Before entering prison, he had an affair and told his wife he didn't want to be married anymore. His three grown children rejected him and his wife was struggling to make ends meet. On top of all of these circumstances, the holidays were fast approaching.

As several families and I worked through these situations with the family, it brought to the surface all kinds of emotions. I remember weeping for the children, being angry with the father and feeling the hopelessness of the mother.

However, the pain of the situation would soon turn to joy. The father was shown mercy by the courts, released and placed on probation. He begged for another chance from his wife, and she gave it. His children, although scarred, returned love to a father who pledged his love to his children.

The church family responded to their financial needs, not just providing money for necessities but also for Christmas presents for the kids.

Oh, did I mention the mother and father surrendered their lives to Jesus during this crisis, both were saved and baptized? Did I fail to mention it wasn't long until the oldest child gave her heart to Jesus, too? I think I also failed to mention they rarely missed a Sunday service after we helped them through the crisis.

I know not every ministry situation will turn out as well as the situation with Joe, but some will. When you share the peace of Jesus, a peace that settles the soul and the circumstances, the people who need it most may refuse your help.

Jesus faced heartache and even rejection while doing ministry. Luke records Jesus healing 10 lepers and only one returned to give Him thanks. John gives the account of many of Jesus' disciples deserting him after an especially hard teaching.

The key to doing ministry is to expect nothing and everything. Sometimes you do ministry to sow a seed for a later harvest. At other times, ministry produces a great harvest. However, no matter the outcome, you still do ministry.

One of the factors to remember while doing ministry is not to lose sight of the ultimate outcome. Our concern for others and a desire to meet physical needs must not replace the desire to meet the ultimate need of all humanity -- the need to receive Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. We serve to share the light of Jesus with all people.

"Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven," Jesus said (Matthew 5:16).

Ministry is not always easy or convenient. It may even be messy, but it sure is worth it.


Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention's evangelism & church growth team.

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